The sign on the door at Hope Inc. just an hour after it opened said it all for that day: No more applications for help will be taken.
Before the doors opened, there were so many people in line that nobody else could get helped other than those already waiting.
There simply is not enough food to give away.
Hope Inc. has had to cut assistance to the needy from once a month to once every two months. At the same time, Hope has cut in half – sometimes less – the amount of food it gives to people in need because of a food shortage volunteers are calling “a crisis.”
“We just do not have enough food to give away to all the people who need it,” said George Kelly, a longtime volunteer at Hope Inc. on Rock Hill’s Park Avenue.
For decades, the poor, the hungry, the needy in Rock Hill have been able to go to Hope Inc. and get enough groceries to keep families from starving. But larger food pantries and government programs that provide food at deep discounts to individual charities such as Hope Inc. can’t keep up with demand.
The shelves this week at Hope Inc. were less than half-full, even after deliveries of canned vegetables, bagged dried fruit and other products.
“And we won’t get more until next week, Wednesday,” Kelly said. “This is all we have. Soon it will all be gone.”
Hope Inc. also helps people within the boundaries of the Rock Hill school district pay their rent and utility bills. Cash and food donations from the public – the bread and butter for places such as Hope Inc. – also are down. Donations generally drop from September until before Thanksgiving, and this year is no different.
The need is so great that at least one church near the pantry, Oakland Avenue Presbyterian, has started a food collection drive for Hope Inc.
“The public has always supported our efforts tremendously, with great generosity,” said Bo Coleman, executive director at Hope Inc. “Yet right now we just don’t have enough resources to meet the demand. People are struggling.”
So in recent days, the all-volunteer staff – not a single person who helps the poor at Hope Inc. gets a paycheck – have had to make do with what is available. Rice and beans and everything from meat to bread are stretched.
Loaves and fishes at Hope Inc. is no longer a Bible story – it is the only way for a charity, and the people it serves, to survive.
Because in the waiting room is the Rock Hill that too many times is never seen by any except those charities who help the poor.
In those metal chairs are parents holding babies who cry from hunger, the elderly whose Social Security has run out for the month and have nothing at home to eat, the disabled.
Those in wheelchairs stay in wheelchairs, allowing somebody else to use a chair.
The rest stand and wait – and hope.
A caregiver for the elderly named Mary Tatum needed food for herself to get through the month. She was happy to get even half as much as she, or anybody else, might have received a few months ago.
“When you come in here, you look at the sign and it says hope,” Tatum said. “It’s the truth. What they give you here is more than food. It is hope they give. They have a true Christian spirit.”
But Hope Inc. cannot work miracles. No volunteer there can turn one loaf of bread, a few fish, into enough to feed the multitudes.